By Frank R. Stockton
Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003
DURING the Revolution, New Jersey had a very hard time, harder in some ways than many of her sister States. This may be accounted for by the fact that much of her territory lay between the two important cities of Philadelphia and New York, and that it was therefore liable to be the scene of frequent battles and marches. In fact, it often happens that the march of an enemy through a quiet country is almost as bad as a disastrous battle.
Country people and farmers, especially those of fruitful and prosperous countries, are generally much more opposed to war than people in cities; and so it happened in New Jersey. When the Revolution began, there were a good many people who did not care particularly about taxation, who had been happy and comfortable all their days, without any thought of independence, and who saw no reason why they should not continue to be so; and these did not immediately spring to arms when the first guns of the war were fired. There were no large cities in New Jersey. It was a rural community, a country of peaceable people.
When the British troops first entered New Jersey, and before any battles had been fought, the commander in chief took advantage of this state of feeling, and endeavored as far as possible to make the people think that the Redcoats were in reality good friends, and intended them no harm. He protested, whenever he had a chance, that when these disturbances were over, any complaints that the people had to make in regard to the laws made by their English rulers, should be carefully attended to, and their grievances redressed as soon as possible.
As has been said before, a great many of the people of the Colony were in favor of continuance of the British rule, and from these arose that Tory party which afterwards caused so much bitterness of feeling and bloody contention. But there were also others, who, although they were not Tories, were not in favor of fighting if it could be helped, and these the British commander most wished to conciliate. He issued a great many printed papers of protection, which he gave to those who had not yet taken sides against the Crown. The people who received these were assured, that, so long as they had them to show, no Redcoat soldier would in any way disturb them or their property.
But when the English army actually spread itself over the country, and the soldiers began to forage about to see what they could find to eat and drink better than their rations, the Jersey farmers frequently discovered that these papers of protection were of no use at all. If shown to one of the Hessians, who were more dreaded than the other soldiers of the British army, the German could not read a word of it, and paid no attention to it. He wanted ducks and geese, and took them. And after a time the English soldiers determined that the Hessians should not take all they wanted while they stood by and had nothing, and so they began to pillage, without regard to the little printed papers which the angry farmers showed them.
This state of things had a very good effect upon the rural population of New Jersey; and as the conduct of the British soldiers became more lawless, so did the determination to resist such outrageous actions become stronger and stronger in the hearts of the people of the country, and they readily listened to the calls to arms which were made by Washington and by Congress. The people who were in favor of the Revolution and independence stood together and formed themselves on one side, while those who were still loyal to the King formed themselves on the other. And thus, with both the Tories and the British against them, the citizens of New Jersey began in good earnest to fight for their liberties.
In the war which was now waged in New Jersey, it very often happened that the British soldiers had no part whatever; and although the battles and skirmishes between the Tories and the Whigs were generally small and of no great importance, they were always violent and bloody. Sometimes the forces on each side were considerable enough to entitle the affair to be called a battle. The forces of the Whigs or patriots in these encounters were almost always composed of the militiamen of the State, who had not joined the regular army, but who had enlisted for the purpose of defending their own homes and farms. In various parts of the country there were men who, some on one side and some on the other, had distinguished themselves as soldiers.
One of the most prominent of these was a Captain Huddy of Monmouth County. He had command of a company of militiamen, and he made himself very formidable to the bodies of Tories who had formed themselves in the country, and his name and fame as a great fighter began to spread over that part of the State. He lived in a good-sized house, for that time, in the village of Colt's Neck, and in this house he generally kept part of his command.
But one evening he happened to be at home without any one with him except a servant, a negro girl about twenty years old. His men had all gone away on some errand, and the fact that the captain was at home by himself became known to some Tories in the neighborhood. These, led by a mulatto named Tye, made an attack upon his house.
But although Captain Huddy's men were all away, they had left their guns behind; and so the brave Huddy, instead of surrendering to the force of fifty or sixty Tories who were outside, determined to fight them, with no garrison but himself and the negro girl, and he made ready to hold his house as long as he could. The girl loaded the guns; and Huddy, running from one window to another, fired at the Tories so rapidly and with such good effect, that they believed that there were a number of men in the house, and so did not dare to rush forward and break in the doors, as they certainly would have done if they had known that they were fighting two persons only, and one of them a girl.